by nathan oster
Greybull High School didn’t have the numbers to make a run at the team titles, but the three athletes who made the long trek to Casper for the State 2A Track and Field Championships certainly made the most of their opportunities.
All three of them placed, with Lindsay Kern earning a fourth in the shot put, McKenna Powers placing fifth in the triple jump and 800 and eighth in the 400, and Oscar Gomez netting a sixth in the shot put.
“It was a good meet for us,” said Coach Jeff Sukut. “As a coach, obviously, I wish we’d have had more kids qualify and hopefully in the future we will get more … but for the ones we took, they did fantastic.
“Out of seven events, four personal records were set.”
Lovell took top honors in both the boys and girls divisions.
The Greybull girls finished with 14 points, good for 14th in the 19-team field.
Kern, a senior, tallied five of those points with her fourth-place finish in the shot put. She didn’t throw her best, with her best effort going 33 feet, 2 ¾ inches. But her best throw during the regular season, a 34-11 ¾, would have only netted her a third in Casper, where two girls topped the 35-foot barrier.
“She was a regional champion and a state runner up last year … a regional runner up and a top-four finisher at state this year … and all-conference two years in a row,” said Sukut. “Add it all up, and I told her, ‘Lindsay, that’s a great way to end your career.’”
Kern didn’t place in the discus, but did turn in her best effort of the season, throwing 90 feet, 11 inches. That was more than a 5-foot improvement on her previous best in the event, which was won by a girl from Sundance who launched it 151 feet, 8 inches.
Powers placed in three of her four events, capping another season of growth and recovery for the sophomore. As a middle schooler, she was injured in a sledding accident in the Big Horns.
Sukut said he couldn’t be more impressed with her progress, calling her “a strong, hard-working girl who is tenacious, something you appreciate with any type of athlete.”
Powers did “tremendously well” in the 800, running a 2:31.2 which was more than four seconds faster than her seed time. “For her first time running that at state, she sure looked like she’d been there before,” said Sukut. “There’s a little more strategy involved with running the 800 than some of the other events.”
With continued improvement in the next two seasons, Sukut said he believes Powers could make a run at the school record, a 2:19.06 set by Emily Koller in 1998. “That’s more than 11 seconds, but could she do it? You bet,” Sukut said.
Powers was nothing if not consistent in the 400 meters. She ranked eighth after the prelims with a 1:04.54 — and eighth after the finals with a 1:04.88. “Neither of those times were personal bests … but they were much better than (her times) last year.”
Powers also set a personal best in the triple jump, soaring 32 feet, 8 ¼ inches, good for fifth.
The only event in which she didn’t place was the long jump — and in it, she scratched on her first two attempts. On her last attempt, she focused more on not scratching — and on just getting a mark. The 12 foot, 11 ¾ inch effort that resulted was nearly 2 feet off her seed distance (14-9 ½).
Gomez and his sixth-place finish in the shot put accounted for Greybull’s only points on the boys’ side. The Buffs placed 19th, ahead of one team.
As for Gomez, the stage of the state track meet wasn’t too big for him. Just a freshman, he belted out a throw of 42 feet, 9 ½ inches on his second throw of his flight to earn a spot in the finals. He was unable to top that effort the rest of the day. Two other throwers from Big Horn County ruled the event, with Brynnt Wood of Riverside winning it at 54-5 ¾ and A.J. Montanez of Lovell finishing second at 53-2. Gomez finished just a 13 inches behind the third-place thrower, Tanner Housley of Kemmerer.
All five of the throwers who beat Gomez are seniors.
“As we have discussed, Oscar is one of the few kids who rotates on his throw,” Sukut said. “He’s going to be tough … and if he gets serious about getting into the weight room, by the time he’s a senior, he’ll be throwing it in the same range as (this year’s top two throwers).”
Sukut credited his assistant, Nolan Tracy, for helping Gomez refine his spin.
“I think he had a blast (at state),” said Tracy. “It’s a unique experience for any kid who has never had a chance to go to the state track meet. I think Oscar fell in love with it. I asked him if he wants to come back as a sophomore, junior and senior, and he said, ‘Most definitely.’”
Sukut said the Buffs will miss their three seniors, which in addition to Kern also included Julian Wiley and Brady Shoemaker.
“I hope we can get a few more kids to come out next year,” he said. “The more we have, the more competitive you can be as a team. It’s a lot more fun when you can take more kids … maybe even put a relay team together. That’s the hope for next year.”